If the many announcements that various Democrats are or are not running for president weren't enough to signal the start of the 2004 campaign, the fight that broke out over competing economic stimulus packages surely was. The differences between the proposals offered by President Bush and by House Democrats provide an early outline of how the 2004 presidential campaign debate may shape up.

Smarting from criticism even from Republican economists that early drafts of his economic plan would have failed to really stimulate the sluggish economy, President Bush "heavy-upped" his proposal, coming in with a $674 billion, 10-year plan that went far beyond anything his economic or political advisers had predicted just a few weeks ago.

Clearly, the White House knows that the public's focus might not always remain on the administration's strong suits, foreign policy and the war on terrorism, for which Bush received 65 percent job-approval ratings in two combined December Ipsos-Reid/Cook Political Report polls. The spotlight could shift to the economy or to other domestic issues, for which Bush's approval ratings are just 51 percent and 50

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